WHAT THE EXPERTS ARE SAYING:
Familiar World: Notes Of A Driftless Fly Fisher is unique in its field, both for its combination of poetry, prose, and photography, and for the quality of the writing. The first thing I did was read straight through the poems. And again they struck me hard. They do what poetry is supposed to do: they put me in touch with the nearly ineffable perceptions and feelings that only poetry can name and evoke. I've known these impressions on streams and Jeffery Skeate has gotten them with uncanny precision, but also with a special torque that is the mark of his own fine sensibility. --Robert Schultz, John P. Fishwick Professor of English, Roanoke College
If you like small books about little streams, you'll like this work by Jeffery Skeate very much. And if the Iowa Driftless Area is the object of your unshakable affection, you will profoundly love his 22 essays and stand-alone free verse.
Skeate's essays and verse take you inward to those hideaway creeks and coverts of the author's fishing life in that fabulous corner of Iowa.
There you will learn about the important mayfly hatches: Blue-Wing Olives, Dark Henricksons, March Browns, Gray Fox and the much overlooked Tricos that hatch long before most anglers stir in their morning beds.
Not to exclude caddisflies and midges, he assigns them to a "secondary hatch" category, more infrequent but important; definitely not a destination event like the mayflies.
When it comes to bugs, however, Skeate's real love is reserved for the terrestrials: ants, beetles, hoppers and his favorite, crickets. He prefers to fish them late morning after the mayfly hatches have subsided and toward evening when things perk up again. A matinee performance between the main features. Not a bad idea!
Skeate doesn't leave you pondering your hatch notes, scratching your whiskers, wondering which fly to use and when. He plainly lays out a game plan for the common Driftless hatches.
Example: In early March, Blue-Wing Olives begin hatching and will do so throughout October and November; in late March, Dark Hendricksons, Iowa's premier dry fly hatch, begin and continue through approximately the third week in April. And so it goes, with suggested times of day to fish and the best fly size to use.
In a favorite chapter of mine, "An Occasional Big Trout", Skeate give a detailed account of accomplishing two things that the average fisher holds little faith of ever doing: locating big fish in small streams and bringing them successfully to hand once hooked.
If you fish those Iowa streams long enough, you'll eventually tangle with a big trout that quickly breaks your small tippet and swims away. For the average small-stream angler, big fish are big surprises leaving behind bigger disappointments - unexpected consequences of an otherwise good day on the stream.
The author has, to some degree, mastered the two important factors in fishing for big trout, but he admits the learning curve for catching big trout is never ending. Central to Skeate's big-fish doctrine is to fish every hole and run as if there were a large fish holding in it.
Other chapters in the book not dealing directly with actual fishing or its approaches cover topics that deal with fly tying, the prerequisite love affair with bamboo rods, collecting rare or out-of-print fly fishing books and other interesting subjects. They all fit together nicely in the meat of the work.
Skeate's prowess as a poet is compelling. My favorite poem is on the back outside cover of his book. Even some of my non-fishing friends were moved by it. Read it before you turn the first page of the book. It makes the experience better and it reminds us that Skeate's Familiar World is ours too.
(reprinted with permission of Midwest Fly Fishing --Bob Johnston, Midwest Fly Fishing